- Great value
- Lightning fast
- Lovely screen
- Android 4.4
- Average battery life
- Low-light camera performance
- No expandable memory
Ratings in depthThe Nexus 5 is the best that Google has to offer right now. It is a lean, mean Android machine, beyond the reach of OEM embellishment and carrier bloatware. It delivers a streamlined experience that's stylish, refined, and lightning fast, and it does all this at a jaw-droppingly low price.
You can snag the 16GB version of the Nexus 5 for £299 or you can lay down an extra £40 and get the 32GB version for £339.
In terms of hardware the Nexus 5 is a premium smartphone, it just doesn't have a premium price tag. The Nexus 5 can just about hold its own with the top devices on the market, including the iPhone 5S (starting at £550), the Samsung Galaxy S4 (now reduced to £420), the HTC One (which you can find for £430), and the Sony Xperia Z1 (now reduced to £430).
A 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 chipset and 2GB RAM place this on the cutting edge. The 5-inch 1080p display is no slouch either, and the Nexus 5 sports the very latest platform update in Android 4.4 KitKat, with the elegant Google Experience Launcher on top.
If you're wondering how Google can offer the Nexus 5 for that much less than its competitors, then you might point an accusatory finger at the camera and the battery life, but make no mistake - this phone is a real bargain.
The Nexus line of smartphones may have started out as reference devices to show off the platform, but Google has improved Android immeasurably since the Nexus One and it has refined its strategy in the marketplace.
The price tag makes it conceivable that you might buy the Nexus 5 off-contract and then seek out the best deal for service. If you have the cash ready, you'll almost certainly get a better deal that way. Just in case you don't, O2 and Vodafone are offering it for no money down on two-year contracts.
I never expected to fall in love with the Nexus 5, but it seduced me. It certainly has its flaws, and we'll get into them in due course, but it's also a beautiful phone that sets a new benchmark for Android.
The Nexus 5 is a vessel. Google's flagship is supposed to compete at the premium end of the market, but it would prefer the software, not the hardware to be the star of the show. To that end, it is almost completely devoid of superfluous detail.
As I rest it vertically on the arm of my couch it conjures visions of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. To soften it off and make it more comfortable to hold, the corners are rounded.
This black slab (which also comes in white) is all about the screen and the entire front of the Nexus 5 is glass. The only details that break it up are the round earpiece centre top and the front-facing camera to the left of it. There is actually an LED notification light down below the screen, but you'll only see that when it blinks into life.
Despite having a five-inch display, the Nexus 5 measures just 137.9 x 69.2 x 8.6mm and the bezels are nice and thin.
With a Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, which translates to 445ppi, the Nexus 5 display looks crisp and accurate. It's an IPS display, and while critics will point to AMOLED's superior brightness and black levels, you'd be hard pressed to notice.
The back and sides are soft-touch, matte plastic and it only weighs 130g, just like the Galaxy S4.
Flip it over and you'll see a couple of design flourishes. The word "Nexus" is embossed in lowercase gloss, with a tiny LG logo below it. Up top on the left you'll find the glaring round eye of the 8MP camera, which is surprisingly big. A tiny LED flash is just below.
The bottom edge has a standard microUSB port and there are two grilles either side of it - the Nexus 5 only has one speaker in there; the other hides a microphone. Up top you'll see the standard 3.5mm headphone port and a tiny hole for an extra microphone.
On the left spine there's a ceramic volume rocker, with no markings. On the right spine there's a ceramic power button and the SIM tray, which you'll need a SIM tool or a pin to pop out. The Nexus 5 does not open, so there's no microSD card support or battery switching.
The Nexus 5 is one of the most comfortable phones I've ever used. It is comparably slow to heat up, so there are no issues holding it while watching movies or during extended gaming sessions. The soft-touch finish contrasts perfectly with the ceramic buttons, which makes them very easy to find and use without looking.
There are negatives. The camera lens protrudes enough to make you worry about it taking the brunt of any impact when the Nexus 5 is put down on a flat surface. That glass expanse, without any protective lip or border, suggests that a drop could easily result in disaster and scratches might be easy to come by.
There's also the inevitable smudging from fingerprints, which turns up on the back and the front, but that's a common problem.
It's not a flashy design, but the Nexus 5 does feel solid and well made. It may be a little big for easy one-handed operation if you don't have big hands, but the extra screen size will justify that trade-off for most people.
At this price, the design of the Nexus 5 is impressive. It's understated, almost making the iPhone 5S look gaudy, and it feels more expensive than the Galaxy S4.